The 1987 Cleveland Browns featured a pro bowl player at every level of their team except special teams, and finished the season with a loss in the AFC Championship. Could the 2013 Browns see similar success from a similarly balanced team?
The AFC North is a tough division that the Browns must succeed in before postseason success becomes a possibility. While the Browns may not feature the number of pro bowlers that the 1987 team did, there are plenty of players that the Browns have on both sides of the ball who can produce. It will take time to congeal, but it is not difficult to envision some very effective individual efforts protrude in the early parts of the season. As each player progresses their abilities in new offensive and defensive systems, the individual production may start to distribute throughout the team, but the team has every opportunity to win early.
The offensive and defensive lines each have plenty of talent. In addition, players such as Paul Kruger, Joe Haden, Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon give the Browns viable threats at each level on both sides of the ball and with one or two starters to be added in the 2013 NFL draft there will be ample talent for a well-assembled coaching staff to win games. The Browns have their list of opponents for the upcoming season, but the primary focus of this team will be the implementation of system football from coaches Ray Horton and Norv Turner. The Browns added two solid coordinators to support first-time head coach Rob Chudzinski.
There will be room for coach Turner to call an even game, or potentially rely heavily on the run and let the pass catchers determine what ways he will be able to utilize certain pass packages each game. The Browns may try to develop an approach to running the ball that utilizes the talent on the roster as thoroughly as possible with a variety of combinations. Turner has players with specific, but not isolated, strengths. Each receiver has shown capability in multiple areas, but got lost in a season where an offensive staff could not keep up with the demands of developing a young unit. At times, former coach Pat Shurmur appeared to lack imagination in the running game and general use of personnel.
The idea of a ‘big play’ receiver and an ‘all-world’ quarterback joined by a ‘slot guy’ or the ‘veteran presence’ are all terms that sound good, but are used far too often. What if you have an offense that has multi-talented players who operate flawlessly under a complex system without labels? Coach Turner is the kind of coordinator who can develop and simultaneously utilize a player. Not many coaches are capable of this, but it really highlights why he was such a great hire. The wide receiving corps that the Browns have are a unique group that may give coach Turner more options that fans and onlookers realize right now.
The new coaches joined this staff not because the Browns were the only team hiring, but because they thought the team gave them the best opportunity to succeed. The Browns have been building momentum, but now they may be ready to do something with it.